Confessions of a Political Animal

August 19, 2009

Laughing on the left side of your face

udderbellySome things are predictable about the Edinburgh Fringe: it’ll rain, the ticket prices will have crept up again, by the end of your stay there you’ll have seen enough good stuff to not mind the hole in your bank balance and that someone will have a whinge about just how ‘lefty’ the whole thing is.

This year, the honour of providing that final ingredient falls to Mr Peter Whittle, writing in the Daily Telegraph under the oh-so-arch headline ‘Edinburgh Festival to feature smug Lefty Tory-bashing. Again. Yawn.’ This is the first time Mr Whittle’s work had crossed my radar, so I took the opportunity to have a skim through his Telegraph back catalogue. It’s something I’d strongly recommend doing yourself.

Mr Whittle, we are told, is the founder/director of The New Culture Forum. The good news is, that if Peter Whittle’s output is anything to go by, the New Culture will be poorly-written, ill-researched and predictable. Oh yes, he’s that good. When an online article straight-facedly carries the tags ‘Smug lefty comedians’ and ‘Smug lefty Radio 4’, genius is at work.

We could leave aside the school-boy factual howlers, well documented by the commenters on the original article, but given they serve to demonstrate just how heavily rooted in genuine research Mr Whittle’s work is, they are worth running through: (more…)

February 12, 2009

The seven silly sins of the anti-PC crusaders

Carol Thatcher

Carol Thatcher

I’m well aware that the fuss over Carol Thatcher’s apparent vocabulary malfunction has pretty much blown over now, at least until some media organisation decides to re-hire her. So no-one’s really going to care about the Animal’s two-pennyworth, especially as others have said what I would have said far better. And its a bit late for me to work up an outrage over the Mayor’s defence of the woman, though given his apparently…er…gritty vocabulary, perhaps he was just as well to take the stance he did.

However, a long series of links followed in an idle moment brought me back to the story, as reported on Tory über-blogger Iain Dale. Nothing particularly remarkable about his take on it: the usual rent-an-outrage anti-BBC meanderings that we expect from the right-wing blogosphere. For some reason, though, I continued below the fold into the comments section and found myself dragged into the happy world of the apologist-for-mild-racism at play. And what struck me was just how formulaic it all was. I’d read the self-same comments in defence of Prince Harry, Prince Phillip, Jeremy Clarkson, Prince Harry again, Patrick Mercer, James McGrath (yes, you’d forgotten who that was too), Chris Moyles and Prince Harry. So, with examples liberally culled from the pearls of wisdom dropped below Dale’s article, the (more…)

November 20, 2008

Now that’s what I call an obssession

griffinWhat was your reaction when you heard that the BNP’s membership list had been published on the internet?

a) A sudden desire to see whether any fascists lived on your road? b) A certain gleefulness that such a vile party had come a cropper in this way? c) A little salivation at the prospect of BNP members losing their jobs? d) A mild concern over the data protection issues involved? e) Or maybe you thought ‘Aha, here’s a chance to have a bash at someone who used to be Mayor of London’?

If your answered mainly ‘e’, then you are Andrew Gilligan, and I claim my £5. The Animal’s favourite scribe has dedicated his Evening Standard column to pushing the centre-right’s usual line regarding the hard right: “oh look, aren’t they small and insignificant, if we generally downplay them and pander a bit to the prejudices of their supporters, they’ll go away.”

Gilligan headlines his article “Now we know what little threat the BNP poses” and bases his assumptions on the fact that the membership list shows a relatively small number of members in London generally, with unsurprisingly, very low numbers in the inner boroughs. But surely this was news to no-one – it was always assumed that the party’s membership was somewhere in the vicinity (more…)

September 24, 2008

Whose vanity is fairest?

Probably classifiable as a vanity project

Probably classifiable as a vanity project

‘Vanity project’ is a widely thrown around phrase, much favoured by right wing commentators to describe the schemes introduced or championed by left-leaning politicians. The implication is clear: this is a project that will involve spending your hard-earned money on a scheme with no better purpose than to inflate an already engorged political ego.

Hence why I have seen, in the past few weeks, projects as diverse as the extension of free nursery places to two year olds, the 2012 Olympics, Housing Information Packs, the nationalisation of Northern Rock and the upgrade of the West Coast Mainline all described as ‘vanity projects’. You get the feeling that 1900’s answer to Andrew Gilligan probably described the Labour Party as a ‘Keir Hardie vanity project’, and that Ye Olde Dailie Maile carried an editorial in 1215 denouncing Magna Carta as a ‘shameful vanity project dreamt up by lefty-liberal barons’.

Inevitably, the truth is normally a little more complex than that suggested by the glib phrase. But what we can quite easily work out is the rationale under which it may be deployed by some of our more reactionary columnists and leader writers.

Step 1) Is this a scheme being proposed by a politician who would probably have voted for the Great Reform Act?

Step 2) Do I suspect that this scheme will not benefit me as (more…)

August 27, 2008

GLAring omissions

Any visitor to London in the past 8 years couldn’t help noticing the ubiquity of the Mayor of London branding on a wide range of publicity for events, services and campaigns run, supported or funded by the then Mayor. Opinions were divided on this – some felt that the ubiquity of the branding smacked of a very un-British egotism bordering on totalitarianism, others, The Animal included, saw it as an acceptable way of demonstrating the priorities of the city government and how public resources were being allocated.

During the election campaign, Boris Johnson made some comments that suggested he was of the former opinion. Fine – this is hardly an issue anyone is going to mount the barricades for. I assumed we had seen the last of the Mayoral branding outside, perhaps, the Mayor’s website. It has remained there, with inevitably the on replaced with an on.

But the branding hasn’t disappeared – it has just become a bit more (more…)

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